3D Mammograms for Breast Cancer Detection in the South Puget Sound Area
2D mammograms have long been the standard when screening women for breast cancer. In more recent years, this technology has evolved to produce an entirely new imaging test that creates a three-dimensional photo of the breast, which offers many more details about the breast tissue and potential areas of concern.
How a 3D Mammogram Is Made
A 3D mammogram, which is also frequently referred to as digital breast tomosynthesis, utilizes many X-ray images of the breast that are then combined to produce a three-dimensional view of the patient’s breast tissue. All X-rays are taken while the breast is compressed on a flat surface, which is similar to the process completed during a regular 2D mammogram.
It is ideal to compress the breast in order to widen the surface area and hold the tissue in place for a few seconds so that a clear image can be produced. Motion during an X-ray typically leads to a blurred photo, which can lead to misdiagnosis or obscured sections of the breast.
The imaging test itself typically lasts for approximately 10 minutes, though this may vary depending upon the particular patient and how many X-rays are taken to obtain various angles of the breast tissue. Your specialist will then review these images to determine if follow-up treatment is needed.
Who Is a Candidate for a 3D Mammogram?
Any person can have a 3D mammogram performed. Some patients simply prefer this more detailed type of diagnostic imaging, while others may have the examination specially ordered by their specialist at Northwest Medical Specialties.
While mammograms are of course vital in detecting and diagnosing cases of breast cancer, this is not the only factor that may influence the decision to order this particular test. Other considerations can include:
- Their age: It is generally recommended for any female that is due for a mammogram to consider opting for a 3D mammogram. More specifically, women over 40 years of age should discuss this option with our office, as more mature individuals are at higher risk for developing breast cancer.
- Known presence of dense breast tissue: Many women will experience gradually more dense breast tissue development as they age. Unfortunately, dense tissue can appear quite similar to abnormal or cancerous tissue on an X-ray. A 3D mammogram is better able to discern these varying levels of thickness in breast tissue compared to other types of mammographic tests.
- Foregoing additional imaging: Since regular 2D mammograms can be less accurate, they have a higher likelihood of producing inconclusive or abnormal results. If our office notices any areas of concern based on a 2D mammogram, they will of course order follow-up evaluations of the patient’s breast to be conducted. Completing a 3D mammogram as the first step is often able to eliminate the potential need for multiple tests.
- Improved detection rates: While 2D mammogram imaging is often sufficient to identify problematic areas in a patient’s breast tissue, 3D mammogram photos are simply more accurate in these findings. Statistically, a 3D mammogram is able to diagnose roughly 4 additional breast cases for every 1,000 women screened. This may not seem like a large variance, though it can be an imperative difference in how quickly patients are able to be diagnosed and thereby treated for breast cancer.
Speaking to Northwest Medical Specialties About Your Options
If you would prefer to complete a 3D mammogram in favor of the traditional 2D mammogram, simply contact Northwest Medical Specialties to request this type of examination during your next screening. We have five offices in the south Puget Sound area for your convenience. Patients may also call to schedule a consultation if they wish to learn more about 3D mammography, or other forms of diagnostic imaging they may wish to complete.